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Sometimes seen as an extravagant tool only used by wine aficionados, wine decanters have actually been part of everyday drinking for millennia – the earliest example dating all the way back to Ancient Greece.
And while they’re often beautiful examples of fine craftsmanship, wine decanters also serve a very practical purpose –they help to elevate the wine’s taste in very tangible ways.
There are two main benefits to decanting your wine:
Bottles of vintage reds often have sediment in them. By pouring the liquid into the decanter you leave the solids. However, mature wines shouldn’t be left exposed to the elements for too long. For this reason, old wine decanters tend to be smaller and thinner – limiting oxygen intake.
Aerating means exposing the wine to oxygen. This helps smooth the tannins (an acidic, mouth-drying sensation) and elevate the wine's fruity aromas. This is why young wine decanters tend to have a wider base – letting the wine breathe as much as possible.
Almost all young wines taste better when decanted. Choosing a good decanter is therefore very important - you’ll be using it a lot!
We’d go for the Young Wine Decanter by Jancis Robinson. Firstly, it looks great. Secondly, it’s big enough to fit a magnum (two bottles’ worth) – making it a great centrepiece for your dinner table.
But more importantly, the wide base is perfect for giving the wine as much air-time as possible, helping its flavours mature quickly and boosting your drinking experience.
Old wine decanters are less essential and more of a nice-to-have. We’ve whittled the list down to our preferred three.
First, is the Riedel Decanter Margaux – a stunning bit of Austrian artisanship. Inspired by cognac bottles, it's specially designed for the gentle decanting of vintage reds.
Next, is the sleek Mature Wine Decanter by Richard Brendon x Jancis. Made here in the UK, it’s taller and thinner than the Margaux and is designed to slot seamlessly in with the rest of the Richard Brendon collection.
Last, and by no means least, is the more budget-friendly Zalto Mystique-Carafe à décanter. Made from mouthblown glass, it's also dishwasher-friendly – delightful and practical.
Most red wine benefits from being decanted. The more full-bodied it is, the more it needs to breathe.
White wines can be decanted, but swirling it in your glass normally provides enough aeration to bring out the flavours.
Try and avoid decanting sparkling wines and champagne – exposure to air makes them lose their fizz.
This varies from wine to wine, but as a general guide:
- Red Wines – anything between 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on their age, and body
- White and Rosé Wines – no longer than half an hour
- Natural Wines – roughly 20 minutes
That’s the basics on decanting. But what’s the use of a decanter if you don’t have any wine? Head over to our shop and pick up your next bottle, ready for some serious aeration.
Next up, ‘how to pick the right wine glass’. Don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. Check out our guide here.